Terms and Concepts frequently used to ask Academic Questions.

Reference as: Mkandawire, S. B. (2015). LTC1100 Terms and Concepts frequently used to ask Academic Questions. The University of Zambia, Lecture notes for week 1. Retrieved from https://sitwe.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/terms-and-concepts-frequently-used-to-ask-academic-questions/

There are many terms and concepts used to ask academic questions in assignments, tests and examinations. Answering these questions correctly and adequately demand that you understand the key words used in such questions. In this unit, we have explained or defined some of the key terms and concepts frequently used to ask assignment, test and examination questions. You must understand these terms very well as they are applied in all academic disciplines.
(a) Define
When you are asked to define you are expected to give the exact meaning of the topic and, in some cases, how it differs from others of its type. Sometimes you may have to examine different views advanced by different scholars.
(b) Describe
To describe is to tell what happened or what happens or what the topic is. You concentrate on the primary or most important features. State and say something about each of the features. For example their implications on the topic. Description is writing about the way persons, animals, or things appear. It may take various forms such as informative description, analytical/technical or evocative description.
An informative Description simply enables the reader to identify an object. An analytical or technical description enables the reader to understand the structure of an object. It involves describing the peculiar structure of something. An evocative description re-creates the impression made by an object. The words used should evoke both the visual effect of the object and the felling that its appearance excites. Evocative description can appeal not just to the eye but also to all the other senses. A good evocative description may include abstract terms but whatever else it does, an evocative description should always to one or more of the senses. Only then can it re-create the impression that a person or object makes.
(c) Illustrate/exemplify
When you illustrate, you give one or more examples of the topic relating to the topic. You can also draw or add a picture to help illustrate a particular issue at hand.
(d) Relate
To relate is to show how a topic has an effect on something else. You show the extent to which they are alike and the connections between two or more things.
(e) Correlate
Correlation involves establishing a relationship between things or showing that two things are related and that they exist side by side.
(f) State
To state is to present the issue at hand in brief and clear form the way it is designed or made.
(g) Trace
Tracing involves giving a series of important steps in the development of historical event or a process or any sequence of happening from some point of origin.
(h) Outline/survey
An outline gives main feature or a general picture or general principles of a subject, omitting minor detail.
(i) Specify
To specify is to identify, state, definitely or exactly the details or aspects of something.
(j) Indicate
To indicate is to show, identify or make something known and understood.
(k) List/enumerate
Listing or enumeration involves entering in a catalogue or inventory and stating in order of importance or least importance objects or things. It requires one to specify item by item in order of considered importance.
(l) Elucidate/clarify
To elucidate or clarify is to make clear, bring out the meaning, throw light on or explain something.
(m) Comparison
Comparison involves showing how two things are both alike and different. You outline the similarities and differences and reach a conclusion.
(n) Contrast
When you contrast two things or situations you show only the difference between things, set in opposition in order to bring out the differences.
(o) Distinguish or differentiate between
This involves bringing out the essential features of things or ideas which make each distinctive from the other.
(p) Agree/degree
This involves giving your opinion about a topic expressing either a positive or a negative opinion. Support your opinion with appropriate examples.
(q) Analyse
To analyse is to break down the topic into its parts and explain how the parts relate to each other and to the whole.
(r) Examine
To examine is to investigate, scrutinize and inquire into a subject, theory or statement with a view to establishing the truth or falsity of the subject, theory or statement.
(s) Asses
When you asses, you weigh up, measure, estimate, the value of the subject considering points for, as well as points against and reach a conclusion.
(t) Evaluate
Here you examine, find the worth, desirability, importance, accuracy, merits or validity of a statement, idea, argument or view.
(u) Discuss
When you discuss you examine or expound the various views held upon or the various factors to be considered or involved, have a conclusion as to which interpretation is the most valid in your opinion or which aspects are the most important, giving your reasons.
(v) Comment on
To comment on something is to make explanatory remarks or criticisms upon. Pick out the most important or interesting features, as you see them.

(w) Criticize
Here you break into parts (analyse), explain the meaning of (interpret) and give your opinion.
(x) Interpret
When you interpret you explain the meaning of a topic, giving facts to support your answer or your point of view.
(y) Justify
You give reasons why the topic or assertion is true. Respond to and refute the main objections likely to be made or advanced.
(z) Prove/disapprove
In proving or disproving you demonstrate the logical argument and/or evidence connected with a proposition. Prove requires the ‘pro’ (the points for) points while disapprove requires the ‘contra’ (the points against) points.
(aa) Narrate
Narration is like storytelling. It is the writing about a succession of events narration of events can be in Chronological Order or out of chronological order. Chronological order is the simplest kind of narration in which the events are narrated according to how they actually occurred or could have occurred. Events may also be narrated out of Chronological Order. According to Hefferman & Lincoln. (1986:86)

“a short narrative can often follow chronological order with good results. However they indicate that strict adherence to chronological order in an extended narrative can lead to a boring, meaningless string of “and then.” To clarify the meaning of a sequence of events, the writer may need to depart from chronological order, moving backward to explain the cause of a particular event or jumping forward to identify its ultimate effect.
(bb) Explain/account
To explain is to tell the main reasons why the topic or something happened. One of the simplest means of explaining anything is to give an example. You can sometime use an entire story to illustrate or exemplify a point. But examples can also be stated briefly. Explanations can take various forms. These include explanation using analogy, explanation by contrast and comparison, explanation by definition, explanation by analyzing, explanation of process, explanation of cause and effect. We provide below some brief details on each of these.

(i) Using Analogy to Explain
An analogy helps the reader to understand something vast, remote, abstract, or specialized by comparing it to something compact, familiar, concrete, or ordinary. However, you should beware of arguing by analogy, of assuming that because two things are alike in some respect they are also alike others.

(ii) Using Comparison and Contract to Explain
While an analogy involves two things of different kinds, such as an orange and the whole earth, comparison and contrast normally involve two things of the same kind two cities, two schools, two games and two means of transportation. An analogy brings out the similarities between two things that we normally think of as entirely different. But most of the time, writers use comparison and contrast to explain the differences between two things that we normally think of as similar, to explain what is distinctive about each of them.

(iii) Using Definition to Explain
A definition explains a word or phrase. Defining a word can take up an entire essay. But most definitions are brief, taking no more than a sentence. Definition comes in many different forms. According to Hefferman & Lincoln (1986:98-9) the least effective definition is dictionary. They suggest that instead of quoting the dictionary, one use one more of the methods listed below:
– Defining by synonyms. A synonym is a word or phrase that means approximately the same thing as the word you are defining.
Sickness means “illness.’
Large means “big.”
– Defining by comparison, contrast, or analogy. You can define a word by comparing, contrasting, or likening it to another word:
– Defining by function. If the word denotes a person or object, you can define it saying what the person or object does:
A botanist studies plants
A linguist studies languages
A thermometer is an instrument used to measure temperature
– Defining by analysis. You can define a word by naming the class of the person or thing it denotes and then giving one or more distinctive features:
e.g. A botanist is a person who specializes in the study of plants
A hippo is a mammal that lives in water.
– Defining by example. You can define a word by giving examples after naming the class of the person or thing it denotes:
– Defining by etymology. Etymology is the study of the roots of words. You can sometimes define a word by giving its root meaning and thus showing where it came from:
(iv) Explaining Cause and Effect
All situations provoke question about their causes and effects. For example one may be interested in finding out why parents do not send their girl children to school. From this one can develop an essay by considering the answer to a question of this kind. Or one can consider the effects of a situation or event. When you attempt to determine the cause of a situation or event, you often construct a hypothesis – that is, a possible explanation of why it happened. In writing, you can likewise construct a hypothesis to explain a situation or event.
2.3 How to Answer Questions
There are a few issues you need to consider when answering questions of whatever kind:
(a) You must first understand what the question requires you to do by reading through it two to three times. All questions are demanding specific issues which need to be addressed. The reason why many students get low marks in their assignments, tests and final examination is due to failure in understanding what the question requires them to do. When you understand the question, you provide correct and appropriate answers.
For you to understand the question, try to circle the main words or phrases in the question especially the main verb (understand what you are expected to do in the action verb/imperative) in the question and decide on the necessary rhetorical strategy for answering the question (cause-effect, comparison-contrast, definition, classification, problem-solution) and so forth.
(b) Establish exactly what type of answer the main verb demands. Is it a diagram, pictorial, analysis, evaluation or detailed summary?
(c) Plan your work and paragraph it properly. Then write a brief outline of all the points you want to mention in your answer.
(d) When answering academic questions, always relate answers to the question asked. You must also ensure that answers to the questions are according to general rules of academic writing such as use of indentations; begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; support the topic sentence(s) with reasons and/or examples; use transition words to show logical organization; write a conclusion. Use correct punctuation throughout.
(e) When you complete writing the essay, read over your answer again and check if all the main ideas have been included and if the question has been answered.
(f) You must also proof read your work to check your answer for grammar and punctuation and probably on whether or not you have brought out appropriate response to a question.

It should be noted that, answering questions adequately demands an understanding of various components discussed above.

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Introduction to Academic writing and Study Skills

Reference as: Mkandawire, S. B. (2015). LTC1100 Introduction to Academic writing and Study Skills, University of Zambia Lecture notes for week 2. Retrieved from https://sitwe.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/academic-writing-and-study-skills/

1.0 Introduction
This unit provide definitions of academic writing, Academic Literacy and study skills. The unit is important as it prepares us to appreciate that there are many definitions and ways of interpreting terms.
1.1 Unit Objectives
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
(a) define academic writing, academic literacy and study skills
(b) explain the meaning of academic literacy
(c) describe characteristics of academic writing
(d) find different sources of data for academic writing
(e) understand the format of an academic essay

1.2 What is Academic writing?
Academic writing is any form of writing that university or college students and researchers are expected to utilize in a particular field using a specific referencing style. It is usually argumentative and expository, written in prose form, used to convey information on a particular subject matter. Academic writing is all about what the writer think about a subject matter and what evidence has contributed to that kind of thinking. Academic writing is also used in different documents such as essays, dissertations, thesis and various academic publications (books, research papers, journals and conference papers).

1.3 What is academic Literacy?
Academic literacy refer to the knowledge on how academic papers or discourses are structured, presented and produced. It is generally about knowing how to write academic works, which type of language to use and the style of presenting the material at hand. A person who is academically literate is able to understand and communicate in various ways using academic language. The concept of academic literacy is specific to academia. Icelda at Angalia Internet Solution lists the following aspects as key in academic literacy as published online at http://icelda.sun.ac.za/index.php/about-icelda/definition-of-academic-literacy. Academically literate person is one who is able to:
understand a range of academic vocabulary in context; interpret and use metaphor and idiom, and perceive connotation, word play and ambiguity; understand relations between different parts of a text, be aware of the logical development of (an academic) text, via introductions to conclusions, and know how to use language that serves to make the different parts of a text hang together; interpret different kinds of text type (genre), and show sensitivity for the meaning that they convey, and the audience that they are aimed at; interpret, use and produce information presented in graphic or visual format; make distinctions between essential and non-essential information, fact and opinion, propositions and arguments; distinguish between cause and effect, classify, categorize and handle data that make comparisons; see sequence and order, do simple numerical estimations and computations that are relevant to academic information, that allow comparisons to be made, and can be applied for the purposes of an argument; know what counts as evidence for an argument, extrapolate from information by making inferences, and apply the information or its implications to other cases than the one at hand; understand the communicative function of various ways of expression in academic language (such as defining, providing examples, arguing); and make meaning (e.g. of an academic text) beyond the level of the sentence.
An understanding and application of many of these aspects highlighted above is a typical feature of academic literacy.
1.4 Characteristics of Academic Writing
Academic writing is characterized by a number of text features. These features may vary in different types of works written in academic writing style. The following are some major characteristics of academic writing. Some of the features and characteristics discussed in this section are taken from Lennie (2010:15-16).
(a) Academic writing uses a formal language with short and clear sentences. This means that there are certain words which must be avoided in academic essays. Avoidable words or phrases may include figures of speech, idioms, technical words and others. You do not use slang words, jargon, abbreviations, or many clichés in academic writing.

(b) The nature of writing in academic works is generally argumentative and expository mainly presenting the authors opinions about a particular subject matter and the evidence presented that made the write to think that way.
(c) An academic writing follows a specific referencing style used in a particular work such as American Psychological Association (APA) referencing style and Modern Language Association (MLA) referencing style both in-text and the way the publications such as books are referenced at the end. This means academic writing must document all its sources of data both inside the essay and at the end.
(d) Academic writing apply good reasoning and logic. Deductive reasoning is a big part of academic writing as your readers have to follow the path that brought you to your conclusion. One form of reasoning is based on another or certain observations. For example, if you have two situations involving John and Andrew; where john used to smoke heavily and died of cancer. And Andrew used to smoke a little but also died of cancer. Then the writer decide to generalize that ‘people who smoke die of cancer’. This generalization is logically true based on the two cases cited above but might be misleading in other circumstances which lead us to the next feature of academic writing.
(e) Academic writing must have enough evidential support to convince others for any line of thought or idea presented. Lennie (2010:15) notes that:
Support in academic writing takes the following forms: (a) The primary source for support in the critical essay is from the text (or sources quoted). The text is the authority, so using quotations is required. ( b) The continuous movement of logic in a critical essay is “assert then support; assert then support.” No assertion (general statement that needs proving) should be left without specific support (often from the text(s)). (c) You need enough support to be convincing. In general, that means for each assertion you need at least three supports. This threshold can vary, but invariably one support is not enough.

This evidential support may be quotes from authorities (writers of books, articles and other publications). Evidential support must have at least three sources or views from different authorities or cases. The example cited in (d) where the two smoking people died of cancer that led to a generalization that ‘people who smoke die of cancer’ may be ruled out if another person provide more than two cases with different results. If Sarah, Kennedy and Yona used to smoke heavily but did not die of cancer, it means that the generalization that ‘people who smoke die of cancer’ will not be logically true because there are other people who smoked heavily but did not died of cancer. Implying that there could be other causes of cancer other than smoking.
(f) Academic essays are well organized when written. Well organized because all academic essays must have “clear introduction, body, and conclusion. As you support your point in the body of the essay, you should “divide up the proof,” which means structuring the body around clear primary supports (developed in single paragraphs for short papers or multiple paragraphs for longer papers)”, Lennie (2010:15).
(g) Lennie (2010:16) further gives another feature that academic writing must have “Grammatical correctness meaning that, your essay should have few if any grammatical problems”. Generally whenever the author moves from one main point (primary support) to the next, the author needs to clearly signal to the reader that this movement is happening. This transition sentence works best when it links back to the thesis as it states the topic of that paragraph or section.
(h) Academic writing usually have unit of purpose. The title of the subject matter is maintained in the essay with each idea well developed and exhausted. There is coherence in the way information flow.
(i) The language also need to clear, impersonal and words need to be chosen for their precision. A thesaurus is a good tool to help you pick just the right words to explain the issues.
(j) The Point-of-view in academic writing is generally third person, as the focus of academic writing is to educate on the facts, not support an opinion.

1.5 What are study skills?
Study skills refer to a series of activities which help an individual to take and organize the new information for easy remembering and retaining it for future usage. This helps an individual student on learning how to become an effective learner and how to manage their own learning. Study skills also include your personal organization, planning, study times and how you manage different aspects when studying. In other ways, any skill which help boost a person’s ability to study and eventually pass exams can be termed a study skill. The following are common study skills applied in different disciplines:
1.5.1 Personal organization and management of studies.
This skill focusses on the following issues:
(a) Create your own study area and develop your own approach to studying.
As a student, you must create a study a good study area such as a library. Some students use bed rooms, dome rooms with doors open, dining halls, TV rooms, bars and others go to the library, others use other places such as common room, surrounding bush, kitchen, on the bus and other places. Be aware that some of these places are not conducive as they may disturb your focus e.g tv rooms, common rooms as they condition you to do something else.

Developing personal approach means that you must know when you think you can focus and study in a day. This will help you realize what works for you what does not really work. This entails that you must get organized right from the start. No one knows you more than you do.

(b) Study time. Effective study time takes between 25 to 40 minutes after this take a five to eight minutes break. If you planned to study for three hours, break your study time into chunks of sessions and take three to four breaks of not more than ten minutes by doing something else that you enjoy such as listening to music, taking a walk, checking the environment and others. This is an important factor because a good student must have a good and flexible time table to study which must be respected. Have specific time when to study specific subject areas. In line with point (a) above, remember that what may work for one person, may not for you. For instance, let’s say someone like studying every afternoon at 4pm, this may be convenient or the time that works for them but it may not work for another one who may be studying at 20;00 hours or at 04:00hours.

(c) Study actively and know what you are studying. Before you start studying, you must clearly understand by asking yourself what you are studying. Learning falls into two categories: Its either Concepts or Facts. Concepts are things associated with behaviour and you have questions such as what does this do and how is it done and these is are very important to remember. Facts are about how things are and these can change over time but concepts does not change easily. To understand concepts, you need to try to explain them on your own by writing it down on paper or speaking through it. As you are studding, highlight important concepts and make sure you must understand them. Another way is writing these concepts on separate papers like a collection or summary of key facts on one sheet. This is what we call data condensation study skill.

(d) Take and make effective notes
Note taking is from an oral source to written form such a lecture, speech and a church session while note making is done from a written material to written form. In both you need to take and make effective notes by focusing on key points only that are important. These can be written on a separate sheet or book so that as you revise later, you mainly focus on key issues noted. Both note taking and note making can use abbreviations, shot cuts and written in bullet form. If you are not clear on anything, you must ask your friends who took good notes and share at that level. If you cannot get from your friends either, you can ask your lecturer in the next lecture before starting another topic or whenever you are given a chance to ask questions.

(e) Use the text books you read correctly.
Sources of data for many college students include lecture notes, text books, modules, internet,
(f) Know where to get data to expand your notes.
Sources of data for many college students include lecture notes, text books, modules, internet, magazines, journals, articles and many other sources. For certain topics, you should not rely on one source of data only as it may be misleading sometimes.

1.5.2 How to retain or remember what you study.
There are many ways people use to remember what they study. These include the following:

(a) Memorization study skill.
Memorization is a deliberate mental process undertaken to compel some data or anything else to go into your memory. It also refer to the saving or putting of data on a memory device such flash disk, CD and external drive. This is done so that you can store or keep information in memory for later remembering. Study activities that facilitate memorization include reading notes many times, verbal rehearsing, drawing diagrams or pictures or map to help remember, writing something down and talking about it to someone, rote learning and other visual or auditory activities. The type of information to remember may be stories, facts, experiences, names, appointments, addresses, telephone numbers, lists, poems, pictures, maps, diagrams, facts, music and many other things. Rote learning means you are repeating the same information several times. This include reading over notes or a textbook, and re-writing notes several time to retain them.

(b) Mnemonic Study skill.
This method is actively used to organize and store factual information for later recall. There are three forms of mnemonics categorized as follows:
(i) Acronyms such as ZESCO for remembering Zambian Electricity Supply Company. Roygbiv for remembering colors of the rain ball as shown in the figure below.

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/452330356293635839/

(ii) Coined Sayings such as For example, if you wanted to remember the nine planets, you construct a sentence in your real life to represent the planets such as MY VERY EARLIEST MOTHER JUST SEND US NINE POTATES. Equally, if you wanted to remember to the geographical compass, you would say NEVER EAT SOUR WHEAT or NEED EVERY SUPER WOMAN. Starting with Mercury or North in the two examples given above, the first letter of each word relates to a planets and compass point respectively and in clockwise order round a compass in the second example.
(iii) Create drawings that you think can help you remember. Any drawing created is associated to things you know or those you can easily relate to in daily life. For example, if you wanted to remember which months of the year end in 31 days and which ones end in 30 days, you can draw this image below commonly known as the Knuckle Mnemonic.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_days_hath_September

Another example is if you wanted to remember the ten commandments in the bible, you would use this drawing below.

Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bible_Commandments_Hand_Mnemonic.png

Mnemonics therefore may be acronyms, symbols, routes, objects, drawings or anything that you do every day that is used to remember some data. It is done by allocating some factual information to specific points of issues that is usually done.

(c) Data Condensing Study Skill
Data condensing is a study skill where you summarize key information in your own language which you can recall later. The way you summarize depends on the nature of the topic, but most involve condensing the large amount of information from a course or book into shorter notes. Often these notes are then condensed further into key concepts and facts. Activities used to condense information include drawing some structure such as spider diagrams, mind maps, a house, a tree and an animal with key words to help you remember the frame of the data.

Another way of summarising what you learn is try to explain in summary form what you learnt to your friend who was not there in class. This will help you master the content discussed and this will help you teach your brain to recall what you learnt. If you can explain without a book to show your understanding the same day after the lecture is better. If you explain it to someone who has no idea about the subject, it shows you fully understand the subject matter. Data condensation may be done by taking notes or making them from the reading materials.

(d) Audio Comprehension Study Skill
This involves reading and listening skills. A student may decide to play notes on soft copy into the computer or any other gadgets to read notes or a book for them and they are there listening and taking note of key information. The reading can equally be done by someone else siting in the same room or probably discuss what has been ready with others. When the reading is repeated frequently, information automatically goes to the mind. This method is heavily used by visually impaired students in different parts of the world.

(e) Examination study skill (The PQRST study method)
This study skill focusses on getting key information when studying and visualizing how examiners will ask them to use that information. This method prioritizes the information in a way that relates directly to how they will be asked to use that information in an exam, (Stangl and Robinson, 1970). PQRST is an acronym for Preview, Question, Read, Summary, Test which has been summarized in the following manner by Stangl and Robinson (1970).
(i) Preview: The student looks at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus.
(ii) Question: The student formulates questions to be answered following a thorough examination of the topic(s).
(iii) Read: The student reads through the related material, focusing on the information that best relates to the questions formulated earlier.
(iv) Summary: The student summarizes the topic, bringing his or her own understanding into the process. This may include written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings.
(v) Test: The student answers the questions drafted earlier, avoiding adding any questions that might distract or change the subject.
The examination study skill is also called ‘The Black-Red-Green method’ (developed through the Royal Literary Fund) to help the student to ensure that every aspect of the question posed has been considered, both in exams and essays by the Royal Literary Fund. The student underlines relevant parts of the question using three separate colors (or some equivalent). BLAck denotes ‘BLAtant instructions’, i.e. something that clearly must be done; a directive or obvious instruction. REd is a REference Point or REquired input of some kind, usually to do with definitions, terms, cited authors, theory, etc. (either explicitly referred to or strongly implied). GREen denotes GREmlins, which are subtle signals one might easily miss, or a ‘GREEN Light’ that gives a hint on how to proceed, or where to place the emphasis in answers, (Rwehumbiza, 2013). .

The examination method is also similar to the P.E.E method. The PEE letters stand for Point, evidence and explain. This method is said to help students break down exam questions allowing them to maximize their marks/grade during the exam. They study with many different examination questions in mind and many Schools encourage practicing the P.E.E method prior to an exam. Using the PEE method, students study with all possible questions on a particular topic, (Rwehumbiza, 2013).
(f) The Cue Study Skill
The cue study skill is all about the student creating visual cue cards or flashcards where they write summarized key information on a small piece of paper to remind them, which they easily carry or move around with for revision. Many times, sstudents make their own flash cards, or more detailed index cards designed for filing, often A5 size, on which short summaries are written.

(g) The Loci and Visual Imagery Study skill
This method demand that students present whatever information they are studying in a real visual physical environment. This can be a drawing somewhere or visualize any locus location such as a room or a certain root they like. They assign certain information to certain locations in a room or a root to they like so that it is easy to remember. Many students use diagrams to bring all the information they want together. They can be used to bring all the information together and provide practice reorganizing what has been learned in order to produce something practical and useful. They can also aid the recall of information learned very quickly, particularly if the student made the diagram while studying the information. Pictures can then be transferred to flash cards that are very effective last minute revision tools rather than rereading any written material.
1.7 Format of an academic essay
Most academic essays have the information page, an introduction, main body, conclusion and references or bibliography at the end. Brief details on each of these phases are given below with examples where necessary.

1.7.1 Information page
An information page is the first sheet of paper that your lecturers or markers see before they go into the actual essay. This page contain names of the institution where the student is based, information about the student including names and institutional identification number, course code or details of the course in which the assignment is sort. Names of your lecturers or professors and assistant lecturers or tutors are also reflected on the first page. The date when the essay question was given and the due date are all reflected on the information. The question you are expected to answer and your contact details are also expected to be found on the information page. This page is commonly called the cover page.

1.7.2 Introduction
Introduction as the name suggests, is a starter or an opening point into answering the essay question. It gives readers an overview or rough guide of what the essay intends to focus on, how you as a write plans to proceed in answering the question given. Note that there are different styles of introducing you essay. For instance, if you are given an assignment question such as “Discuss the view that literacy and language are inseparable”. Look at how the following students introduced their essays to the question.

Student 1
The aim of this essay is to discuss the assertion that literacy and language are inseparable. The essay starts with this brief introduction, then proceeds to the main body where the discussion of the subject matter will take place before a concise conclusion is given at the end.

Student 2
It is impossible to conceive of literacy without implying the existence of language as the two are inseparable. These terms are many times intertwined as they both focus on the welfare of the child as he or she grows. This essay attempts to discuss the view that literacy and language are inseparable. It will begin by defining key terms in the question and then discuss in the essay which will end with conclusion and proper references.

Student 3
This assignment is going to talk about literacy and language. The answers will see if literacy is related to the language and then discuss them.

Note that the three students above have different ways of starting their essays. Student 1 has outlined almost all the parts he will have in the essay and left out references. Student two started the essay with an opinion supporting the question and then highlighted what readers expect to find in the essay. The third student has incomplete introduction with unorganized structures in the text.

Remember that your introduction must attract the reader’s attention. It must be interesting enough to entice the reader to read more of your paper and it should tell the reader what the paper will focus on.
One literary trick is to open your paper with an attention grabber (Jacobs, 2015). She further noted that some common devices used to provide the attention grabber are:

(a) Provide surprising information
Surprising information must be fact-based and backed by scholarly evidence. It is a hook or attention grabber. Providing startling information in your introduction could be pulling a few surprising or powerful facts or statistics from your research and then tying them into why you are writing the paper and why the reader should keep reading.

(b) Tell an anecdote (story)
An anecdote is a short and focused story about your topic. Stories make an interesting opening for a paper and serve to get the reader’s attention.

(c) Create a dialog
A dialog can be a simple exchange between characters on your topic. Provide summary information. Creating an introduction that provides a general summary of your topic in an interesting manner.

(d) Open with a quote
Open your paper with an interesting quote that you tie to your topic. Interesting quotes are based on the subject matter or topic you expected to write on in your essay. This usually come from scholars that have written materials such as books, articles and magazines.

(e) Ask a compelling question of the reader
Ask a question of the reader that is designed to peak their interest and make them want to learn more about your topic in order to answer the question for themselves.

(f) Finish the introduction paragraph with your thesis statement.
This way, you have an attention grabber to “hook” the reader and this leads naturally into your thesis statement which is the main point of your paper.

1.7.3 Main Body
This is where you are expected to answer the question and your focus here should be on answering the question given. Do not be overtaken by the information you find on internet, books, articles journals or any other sources that looks similar to what the question demands.
The main body of the essay is where you are expected to build up your essay with respect to the topic and your planed essay layout points. The main body is divided into paragraphs and each paragraph needs to have a topic sentence that identifies what part of your argument the paragraph will support. In general, each paragraph should be at least three sentences. If your paragraph gets too long, re-read it and see if you can break it into two paragraphs, (Jacobs, 2015).
1.7.4 Conclusion
Conclusion is the summary of your argument or of the main points raised in your essay. It is the section where the writer highlights the key issues discussed in the essay in a special way. As a writer, you are also expected to state your opinion or stance on the topic given.
1.7.5 References
When you have completed writing your essay, you need to compile a list of references consulted in your essay. References are materials referred to in your essay and it is written using different styles. You need to consult your Lecturers which referencing style they need for the course. If they have not specified, you can use any one you know. In Zambia, many institutions prefer the APA referencing system as compared to MLA, Chicago or Harvard.
1.8 Academic Sources of Data
In the University or College, when researching an assignment topic for academic purposes, acknowledging sources of data is very important. An essay with sources carry more weight and authority, and are likely to be more convincing because academic sources are authoritative in nature as they help in identifying the qualifications and expertise of the writer. Writers are careful to credit the origins of information and ideas, usually by means of a reference list or bibliography.

The aim of academic sources is to examine a topic fairly. This does not mean that they never take a side, but that the source does not ignore alternative positions on the topic. Many times, academic sources target university lecturers, students, and professionals interested in the theoretical side of a topic.

1.8.1 Types of academic sources
The most common forms of academic source of data are:
Books
Journal articles
Published reports

Sources such as newspaper articles, magazine articles, opinion pieces, and websites are not commonly academic, although there are some exceptions. Many journal articles and reports can be found online, for example. Academic journals are very different from popular magazines, although they bear several similarities. Do not quote any material you find on the street but you need to check who the writer is before utilizing the source. Academic authors are likely to come from a universities or institutes, and academic writing is often published by a university press or a recognized publisher.

1.8.2 Primary, secondary and Tertiary sources
The sources of data for academic writing can be divided into three types, depending on their proximity to the subject of study namely: primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
(a) Primary Sources
On the first hill, Primary sources refer to first hand data with original and direct evidence. These are sources where the researcher or someone has personal experience of something. The examples of primary sources are observation, interviews data, raw data from an experiment, demographic records, works of fiction, diaries, official documents, such as census data and legal texts, objects, such as archaeological findings, numeric data and quantities or corpora.

(b) Secondary Sources
On the second hill, Secondary sources get their data from primary sources and this type of data usually values, discuss or comment on primary sources or its equivalent. They use the data or evidence from primary sources to construct an argument. Secondary sources of data include, biographies, monographs, books or research articles that analyses, critique, or synthesize a range of sources.

(c) Tertiary Sources
Tertiary sources refer to data that summarises or compiles facts and knowledges materials produced by someone else. Tertiary sources many times combine both primary and secondary sources. They are convenient for quick access to summarised facts, but not all sources that belong to this category are considered suitable for scholarly writing. For instance, it is usually not acceptable to use compilations of facts instead of reading the original sources. Therefore, students writing essays are recommended to consult their teachers on the suitability of using tertiary sources in their writing. Sources that would be regarded as tertiary sources include: textbooks, study guides, encyclopaedias and wikis’ indexes and other classification systems
Primary sources are more useful and trusted as they provide a clear first-hand information, but secondary sources have the added benefit of expert analysis and context. Tertiary sources may even be more helpful as they have third hard analysis. All the three sources are important and they differ or emphasized in certain types of writing. Your university assignments are mostly expected to use secondary sources and tertiary sources of data. It is also important to note that the distinction among primary, secondary and tertiary sources is not a fixed one. For instance, in an analysis of an encyclopaedic article, that text would be regarded as a primary source, and in a review of a scholarly monograph, the text under scrutiny would be seen as a primary source, although it would be used as secondary source material under other circumstances.
1.9 Conclusion
This unit defined academic writing on one hand as a form of writing that university or college students and researchers are expected to utilize in a particular field using a specific referencing style. On the other hand, Academic literacy referred to the knowledge on how academic papers or discourses are structured, presented and produced. Study skills looks a series of activities which help an individual to take and organize the new information for easy remembering and retaining it for future usage. The unit also discussed a number of study skills and characteristics of academic writing to help new students cope with university academic life.

1.10 Revision questions
1. Explain the difference between academic writing and academic literacy.
2. Define study skills.
3. Explain the different ways a student can use to study.
4. What are the characteristics of academic writing?

REFERENCES
Baker, S. (1985). The Practical Stylist. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Buckley, J. (1991). Fit to Print. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Deese, J. and Ellin K. D. (1969). How to Study. New York: McGraw-Hill Book
Company.

Bremer, Rod. The Manual – A guide to the Ultimate Study Method (USM).
(Amazon Digital Services)

Jacobs, C. (2015). An introduction, body and conclusion. Available at
http://www.sophia.org/tutorials/paper-writing-introductionbodyconclusion (Accessed on 4th August 2015)

Jerold, A. W. (1982). Study Skills for Adults Returning to School. New York:
McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Lennie, L. I. (2010). What Is “Academic” Writing? Available at Writing Spaces:
http://writingspaces.org/essays, Parlor Press:
http://parlorpress.com/writingspaces and WAC Clearinghouse:
http://wac.colostate.edu/books/

Royal Literary Fund: Mission Possible: the Study Skills available at http://www.rlf.org.uk/fellowshipscheme/writing/mission_possible.cfm
Rwehumbiza, R. (2013). Understanding Examination Techniques and Effective
study Strategies. Dar-es-salaam: Mikumi.
Stangl, W., Robinson, F. P. (1970). Effective study. New York: Harper &
Row. “The PQRST Method of Studying”. stangl-taller.at.
Retrieved 2009-02-01.
http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/site/colleges/seh/freshinfo/vs/StudySkills2008b.pdf%5B
http://icelda.sun.ac.za/index.php/about-icelda/definition-of-academic-literacy

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Descriptive Vs Prescriptive Grammar

Descriptive grammar: the systematic study and description of a language. Descriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as it is actually used by speakers and writers. HOW LANGUAGE IS USED.
E.G I went to Lusaka to visited my uncle. In Descriptive Marking – How language is used. A teacher underlined [to visited]. Descriptive rule. Infinitive # to + past participle.

Prescriptive grammar: a set of rules and examples dealing with the syntax and word structures of a language, usually intended as an aid to the learning of that language. Prescriptive grammar refers to the structure of a language as certain people think it should be used. HOW LANGUAGE SHOULD BE USED.
E.G I went to Lusaka to visited my uncle. In Prescriptive Marking – How language should be used. A teacher cancelled –ed.

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The nature of challenges teachers face in using the Malawi Breakthrough to Literacy (MBTL) course to teach initial literacy to standard one learners in Mzuzu, Malawi

The nature of challenges teachers face in using the Malawi Breakthrough to Literacy (MBTL) course to teach initial literacy to standard one learners in Mzuzu, Malawi
By
Vera Chihana & Dennis Banda

ABSTRACT
Literacy is at the core of educational experience and is an essential key to success in educational endeavors (Farris, 2004). For n this reason, the government of Malawi through the Ministry of Education introduced a mother-tongue literacy course called Malawi Breakthrough to Literacy (MBTL) course in the year 2005. This was aimed at improving the literacy levels that were reported to be very low. Despite this profound intervention, literacy levels continue to be low. Much that there might be other causal factors leading to the low literacy achievements in the process of using the MBTL course, teachers are not exceptional. They might be encountering challenges in the process of teaching initial literacy to standard one learners using the MBTL course. The challenges teachers face when employing this literacy course, could be a factor towards the persisting low literacy levels.
Therefore, the current study sought to investigate into the possible challenges teachers who teach standard one learners face when using the Malawi Breakthrough to Literacy (MBTL) course to teach standard one learners. Particularly this study, which was carried out in the year 2010 and 2011, examined the nature of challenges teachers encounter which hinders the successful acquisition of initial literacy skills like reading and writing. It further provides recommendations which might minimize the challenges as established by this study which was conducted in Mzuzu, a commercial city, in the northern region of Malawi.
It was a case study and it utilized both qualitative and quantitative research designs. The combination of the research designs was to gain an understanding of the matter being investigated and to get a deep insight about the nature of challenges teachers face when teaching initial literacy. The research methods used in the study were: questionnaires, lesson observations and interviews. In collecting data, questionnaires, lesson observation guides and semi-structured interviews schedules were used.
The population of the study comprised of all teachers in Mzuzu who teach standard one learners using the MBTL course and all head teachers. All these were from government primary schools where the course is implemented. The sample comprised of forty teachers and ten head teachers.
The findings established that teachers are facing various challenges to teach initial literacy skills using the MBTL course. Analysis of questionnaires, interviews and lesson observations, revealed that the nature of challenges range from familiar local language of initial literacy teaching, teaching and learning materials and methods as well as classroom management.
The study further established that the course has very good features and strategies that can help teachers to teach initial literacy skills effectively. However the conditions in which the course is implemented are unfavorable. The unfavorable conditions present teachers with various challenges in using it to teach initial literacy skills effectively and efficiently. Consequently these challenges could be a factor leading to the low literacy levels in Malawi that are reported by the media and researchers.
In view of the findings the study therefore proposed the following recommendations that would minimize the challenges being encountered by teachers when teaching initial literacy skills; there is need to revisit the language policy of initial literacy teaching and learning, provision of sufficient and suitable teaching and learning materials, a need for a comprehensive in-service training for all teachers on how to use materials and methods of MBTL course as well as an improvement on the teacher-pupil ratio and the school infrastructure among others.
INTRODUCTION
Literacy is basically understood to be the ability to read and write. The issue of literacy development has been an area of inquiry that has gained wide spread interest of late. Malawi, like other African countries are facing great challenges in the development of literacy, more especially in the early years of formal education. In an effort to improve literacy rates that have always been reportedly low, the Ministry of Education introduced a mother-tongue language and literacy course called MBTL in the year 2005 in all government primary schools. The course is basically designed to develop initial literacy skills. It was piloted in two districts before it rolled to all government primary schools.
The Education system in Malawi follows an 8-4-4 structure comprising eight years of primary school, four years of secondary school and a minimum of four years of tertiary education levels. Primary education is divided into three sections; infant (Standard 1 & 2), junior (Standard 3, 4 & 5) and senior (Standard 6, 7 & 8). When Malawi attained independence in 1964, the government elevated Chichewa out of the other 16 languages, to the level of national language as well as school subject to be learnt from standard one onwards in all government primary and secondary schools. In the same year English was chosen as the official language for communication in public administration, business and commerce and education. It was also to be taught as a subject from standard one onwards. In 1996, the government through the Ministry of Education (MoE) reviewed the language of instruction policy and introduced the use of mother tongue as medium of instruction from standard one up to four (Ministry of Education; 1996). Chichewa and English remained national and official languages respectively and also as school subjects. The policy stipulates that in standards 1 to 4, a dominant familiar local language of the area where the school is located, be used as medium of instruction. The review of the language policy in 1996 at the lower primary school level was aimed at improving literacy rates. The policy still stands today. The familiar local language is also used to teach initial literacy skills for the MBTL literacy course that was introduced six years ago.
However, despite the policy review in terms of language of instruction and other innovations the MoE had put in place, research reports of low literacy levels among primary school learners persisted (Williams 1998; SAQMEC 2001; IEQ 2003). In addition, studies by Chilora (2001) revealed that many learners could not read and write both in Chichewa and English by the time they completed standard 2. The reports recommended that there was need for appropriate strategies which could be used to raise the levels of literacy acquisition in primary schools. Hence the introduction of MBTL course in the year 2005.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE MBTL COURSE
Breakthrough to Literacy (BTL) is a Molteno’s unique mother-tongue literacy course for primary schools, based on learner-centered and language-experience approaches. The course systematizes the Language Experience Approach to the mother-tongue, utilizing the oral skills the child brings from home to the classroom as the basis for learning to read and write. These oral or listening and speaking skills are basic to successful learning, and they constitute a starting point in the teaching of literacy through the Breakthrough methodology. Breakthrough to Literacy builds on these skills to develop reading and writing skills. Thus it uses the language experience approach.
Breakthrough to Literacy is originally a British course which was designed in the early 1960s’ and launched in the 1970s’ to help young children acquire early reading and writing skills (Horner, 1972). This intervention was initially designed to prepare teachers through short courses to assist children with special education needs and who could not read and write in the early school years. In Africa, Breakthrough to Literacy was first developed by a South African nongovernmental organization called Molteno Project in 1998 and later spread to other African countries including Malawi. In Africa, local languages are mostly used to teach literacy skills to young children when they begin formal education. The breakthrough to literacy approach to teaching contends that learners be taught how to read and write in their familiar local language.
In Malawi the course was initiated as part of an innovation of the new curriculum known as Primary Curriculum and Reform Assessment (PCAR). In standard one, an hour is set each day to teach learners how to read and write easily and accurately in their familiar languages. The most familiar language used in Mzuzu is Tumbuka which teachers are supposed to use to teach. This helps learners to see in printed form, words that they use in their everyday talk. They realize that what they read is something familiar only that it is presented in a different form. This makes MBTL course, a language experience approach to teaching reading. The teacher starts with what learners already know, their spoken language, to what is to be known, a written word.
A class is set in such a way that learners are divided into four groups with a group leader each and the entire first term work focuses on introducing learners to school life and learning. This is divided into three units namely; orientation, promotion of sensory motor development as well as games, plays, songs and dances. It is in the second and third term when teachers begin the actual teaching of learning how to read and write.
METHODOLOGY
Research design
It was a case study and the unit of study was a group of teachers who teach standard one learners using the MBTL course. The study used both qualitative and quantitative research. This was aimed at enhancing an understanding of the matter being investigated.
The study population
The target population of the study consisted of all teachers who teach standard one learners using MBTL course as well as administrators of primary schools in Mzuzu district.
The setting
The setting of this study was government primary schools in Mzuzu town, northern part of Malawi. Ten primary schools formed the study’s case. Within each school, the study was interested in teachers who teach standard one learners and this obviously meant that standard one learners were part and parcel of the population of interest. Other key actors within the primary school such as head teachers were also considered as part of the population since they play an important role in supervising, guiding and directing activities of the school.
The sample
The sample for this study consisted of 40 teachers teaching standard one learners using MBTL course and 10 head teachers; one from each school. These respondents were selected from 10 out of 37 government primary schools in Mzuzu district. Each of the school had an average of four standard one teachers.
Sampling Procedures
Random and purposive samplings were used in the study. 10 schools were randomly selected from the 37 schools. Purposive sampling was used to select teachers who teach standard one learners using the MBTL course. 10 head teachers, one from each of the ten randomly selected schools, formed part of the sample.
Research Instruments
The following three research instruments were used to collect data from teachers and head teachers:
1. Questionnaires:
Questionnaires were administered to all the 40 teachers. They helped gather the general information about the teachers’ challenges to teach initial literacy skills using the MBTL course. It was used as a long interview guide. The information captured lead to sources and areas to be interviewed and observed respectively. This instrument had both closed and open ended questions.
2. Classroom observation guide:
This instrument helped to provide first hand information about the real classroom situation and practices. Further, it helped in understanding the teacher behavior patterns and the challenges faced in the physical and social classroom context. Observations were only on few teachers/lessons; teachers who were observed are the same ones who were interviewed.
3. Semi-structured interview guides:
These were of two types: The first type was for the teachers who were interviewed as a follow up to classroom lesson observations. This helped to clarify matters that had risen from observations as well as questionnaires. The second type was for head teachers who were also interviewed to verify on the challenges teachers encounter with regards to their teaching of initial literacy skills using the MBTL course.
Data Collection Procedures
Data was collected between January and March 2011. Procedures involved were as follows: Questionnaires were administered to all the 40 teachers. Secondly, lesson observations were conducted to 10 teachers, one from each school but on separate arranged days. These teachers were selected from the forty teachers who answered the questionnaires. The selection depended on the responses given by the teachers and other characteristics relating to the research objectives. Teachers who were observed teaching were also interviewed soon after the lesson. Head teachers were interviewed on the days the classroom lesson observations were made.
Data analysis procedures
SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Science) was used to analyze questionnaires and simple statistics in form of frequencies and percentages were run for data interpretation. Data was then fused into the data collected through lesson observations and interviews. This was because questionnaires were purely used as long interview guide. Data from lesson observations and interviews were analyzed by identifying common themes and categories with respect to the study objectives. Later all data were linked by making contrasts and comparisons. Thereafter interpretations and conclusions were made.

FINDINGS ON THE NATURE OF CHALLENGES TEACHERS ENCOUNTER
The study established the following major findings as nature of challenges teachers face when teaching initial literacy skills using the MBTL course. The challenges are related to language of initial literacy teaching and learning, MBTL teaching/learning materials and methods, training, time constraints and classroom management;
 Challenges with language initial literacy teaching and learning.
Teachers are teaching in areas where language for literacy teaching is very unfamiliar for them to use for teaching. Furthermore, learners are not of the same language background. Above all, the texts used are in Chichewa when most of the learner’s familiar language is Tumbuka. This kind of arrangement where there are differences in the familiar language used to teach between the teachers, the learners and the text books has brought pedagogical challenges for most of the teachers.
 Challenges with the teaching and learning materials.
The course is supposed to have MBTL kit that is specifically designed to teach initial literacy skills. However, teachers do not have all the necessary materials for teaching the way they were trained. Instead the materials that are available and are used by the teachers are text books, posters and flip charts which are not enough to effectively assist in teaching all the necessary skills step by step as recommended by the course.
 Challenges with MBTL course methods
The study also established that teachers are not adequately equipped with knowledge about the course methods to teach initial literacy. This is due to inadequate time that was set for training that resulted into teachers not to be sufficiently equipped with all the needed knowledge and skills to teach the literacy skills using the MBTL course.
 Challenges with MBTL lesson management
The other established challenge teachers encountered was in terms of managing all the four groups during the literacy hour lesson. This was because of over enrollment in almost all the classrooms where lessons were observed. This led to the management of learners in an MBTL lesson too involving and quite difficult for a single teacher especially when the class has low achievers who require individual attention.
 Challenges related to content
The MBTL class arrangement and content to be covered are in such a way that it is not easy for teachers to follow. It has an assumption that learners will be present in class all the days of the week, month and year. Missing one lesson means the teacher has to find some extra time to cover the work to those who were not present as the next day the teacher has to cover new work. Teachers always panic in the way they teach because there is no time for those learners lagging behind. One hour per day for four days a week, has been proved not enough to effectively teach initial literacy skills. There are a lot of activities to be done within the one hour period for all the four groups hence lack of sufficient time for revision and individual help. Time allocated for literacy teaching does not match with the amount of content to be taught. This problem is aggravated with many learners per group per class.
 Challenge with over enrolment when using the MBTL course.
The study further established difficulties of teaching literacy skills in overcrowded classrooms. Most of the classrooms have over 70 learners making it difficult for the teachers to provide individual support, constructive feedback and to employ necessary literacy skills when teaching. This is aggravated with understaffing and absenteeism in many schools which means more work for teachers who already have a lot to do in order to successfully help learners acquire initial literacy skills.

RECCOMMENDATIONS
In view of the established challenges the study further suggested a number of recommendations that might minimize or eliminate the challenges encountered by the teachers. They are as follows:
 The policy on language for initial literacy teaching and learning should be revisited on its practicability so that there is mutual understanding between teachers and learners in the teaching and learning process.
 The system of teacher deployment by the Ministry of Education, should take into consideration the teachers familiar language in relation to at least that of the learners. This is more specific with those teachers trained to teach initial literacy skills using the MBTL course.
 Teachers and stakeholders who participated in the MBTL course training should be involved in developing teaching and learning materials so that the materials are appropriate and sufficient for teaching initial literacy skills. Teachers should be sensitized on the need to improvise their own materials as a whole school initiative rather than the prescribed texts and materials only. This will also ensure production of the materials in abundance instead of translating the Molteno materials that brings about copy right problems.
 Furthermore, a comprehensive training of teachers is needed for the MBTL course program to be successful. Teachers will only do better if they are highly and properly trained and oriented for the MBTL course to teaching initial literacy. In addition, intensive in-service training should be conducted frequently to assist teachers gain adequately the required skills and knowledge needed to develop initial literacy skills in the young learners. Local nationals, who are experts in initial literacy teaching, should be given utmost priority to conduct in service trainings for the ongoing MBTL course. However guidance and technical expertise from other literacy experts other than the locals are also needed to support the reforms.
 In terms of time allocated for teaching literacy, which is one hour per day, there is need for additional time due many learners per class. This could be possible, for instance, if actual teaching of initial literacy should come as early as first term so that there is enough time to spread the work in all the three terms of the school academic year.
 The role and involvement of head teachers in the improvement of teaching literacy skills should extend from administrative to instructional leadership. Head teachers need to take strong leadership role at the classroom level to ensure compliance to concepts and practices of the literacy reforms. They should provide guidance and support in addressing the challenges teachers face when teaching initial literacy skills. In addition there is need for a great improvement of both internal and external monitoring and evaluation.
 In terms of over enrolment and overcrowded classrooms, the Ministry of Education, stakeholders and communities altogether need to construct more classroom blocks to create more space and reduce the overcrowding in classrooms for the successful implementation of MBTL course methods. In so doing, it will be easy for MBTL teachers to teach effectively using all the necessary MBTL course methods.
 To balance up the teacher-pupil ratio, there is need to train more teachers in order to give teachers time to attend to individual learners as well as those with learning problems. This will reduce time spent on classroom management to actual teaching. In addition, teacher training schools should provide an explicit, relevant understanding of initial literacy skill teaching and learning.
 Adopting programs wholesale is not an effective way of which to some extent, is the case with MBTL course. Flexibility, applicability and ample time should be given priority when adopting these literacy programs. The conditions have to be favorable and conducive for the successful implementation of the program, otherwise, all the effort would be in vain.
SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
The study based on the objectives and findings concluded that there are many challenges that teachers encounter in their teaching of initial literacy to standard one learners using the MBTL course. The challenges are in the nature of familiar local language for teaching and learning, teaching and learning materials and methods as well as classroom management. The challenges could be minimized or eliminated if necessary and favorable conditions could be put in place. However, it requires a strong cooperation amongst all the concerned players like teachers themselves, head teachers, PEAs, Institute of Education, Ministry of Education and the Government of Malawi together as a team to minimize the challenges that teachers are facing in their noble job of teaching initial literacy to standard one learners using the MBTL course.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Many thanks to my supervisor Dr Dennis Banda and other lecturers on Literacy and Learning programme for their support during the entire study period and particularly research work. I do not forget all the head teachers, teachers and learners who were involved in this study, for without their cordial assistance, this research work, would not have been completed.
REFERENCES.
Chilora, H.G. (2001). Investigating the Role of Teachers Home Language in Mother Tongue Policy Implementation: Some Evidence from some IEQ Research Findings in Malawi. A paper presented at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference in Washington D.C, U.S.A, March, 2001.
Chiuye, G. (2009) Comparative Studies of Recent Literacy Programs Piloted in Malawi and Mid-Term Evaluation of Beginning Literacy Programs in Malawi. Centre for Research Studies, Zomba: University of Malawi.
Farris,G.,(2004). Assessing Learning Literacies. Hershey, PA: Idea Group
Horner, L.(1972). Teaching Children How to Read. Washington DC. National Institute of Literacy
Mchazime, H.S. (1996). Use of Mother Tongue as a Medium of Instruction in Malawi: A Paper Presented at the International Seminar on Language in Education, at Cape Town, South Africa.
The Daily Times (Malawi’s Premier Daily), Friday, September 10, 2010

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STRATEGIES AND TOOLS THAT FACILITATE RESEARCH UPTAKE: A FOCUS ON SITWE’S RESEARCH UPTAKE, COMMUNICATION AND UTILISATION MODEL

STRATEGIES AND TOOLS THAT FACILITATE RESEARCH UPTAKE: A FOCUS ON SITWE’S RESEARCH UPTAKE, COMMUNICATION AND UTILISATION MODEL
by
Sitwe Benson Mkandawire,
University of Zambia – 2013

Research uptake strategies and tools are like sharp kitchen utensils that can either serve us or leave us bleeding depending on how we handle them. Issues of research uptake and utilisation worldwide are equally like a war between researchers and research institutions versus the public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry. This is not a war of guns, bombs, blood and fire but that of attitude, ego, rudeness, habits, research communication illiteracy, negligence and ignorance, Mkandawire (2013:1).
Strategies in this article refer to deliberate plans or actions to achieve your research uptake and utilisation goals while Tools refer to specific guides, instruments or activities for implementing your general strategy.
The central task of all research institutions is to provide an environment in which one is able to discover, innovate, and initiate new knowledge that the world has never known and not act as mere platforms for research for the sake of research. The community can only know this new knowledge through specific strategies and tools for science dissemination. All research institutions are expected to use such a resource if their institutions are to be recognised by others and the international community. This is what Linda Cilliers in her article ‘Leveraging your institution`s research’ observed when she said “One of the smartest ways for a university to raise its profile is to use what many already have in abundance—research”. The crucial issue this article is trying to address is: how does the world and other institutions know about this already existing abundant research without appropriate strategies and tools for research uptake?
African research institutions’ capacity is a key resource for social change, innovation, policy makers, reformation and national development but it is under-resourced and under-utilised, and consequently not fulfilling its full potential. Currently, there are many research institutions in the world and Africa in particular that carry out different forms of research and science at different levels. Yet, science and research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry is still a challenge. Research uptake challenges are equally at different levels. One of the major challenges is lack of strategies and tools or modalities of enhancing scientific research uptake. Many of these researchers and research institutions want to have their research, science, innovations and technologies up-taken by the end users. They do not have strategies, tools and means to do so.
Some research institutions have the strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake but does not have effective and adequate means to reach to the end users. Many times, such institutions are those without specialised offices for research uptake as noted by Sara Grobbelaar in her DRUSSA blog article tagged ‘Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake’ when she noted “it is important that individual actors be enabled to become proficient in the management of Research Uptake (RU), efforts to get research into use will not come to fruition unless the institutional environment is conducive to such activity”. By extension Grobbelaar suggests that even if an institution has the necessary strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, they may not reach the end users without effective research uptake management. In most cases, such institutions bleed for not handling these strategies and tools well. The tools are not serving them. Institutions that adequately utilise research uptake strategies and tools have little to complain about research uptake in their communities because they make sure that whatever come out of research from their institutions is effectively utilised by those in need.
There are many strategies and tools for researchers and research institutions that can be used to facilitate research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. These strategies and tools are summarised in ‘Sitwe’s Research Up-take, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model)’ below in a table form.
Sitwe’s Research up-take, Communication & Utilisation Model
Options Strategies Tools
one Come up with institutional research uptake aims, goals and objectives Research Uptake Strategic plan
Two Find means of accounting for whatever research is done at your institution List of representatives from units, sections, departments or schools to report monthly on research completed
Three Create institutional friendship with possible research up-takers Memorandum of understanding with public-private-civil society sectors
Four Go to possible institutions that can uptake your research door to door visits convincing them that they need your research or the importance of your research Mobile unit team from research uptake offices at the research institution.
Five Organise research and science media briefings inviting media houses and possible up-takers and end users TV, Radio, Newspapers, Social Media, Electronic Media, Print Media
Six Establish research and science dissemination media programmes with Media houses TV, Radio, Newspapers, Social Media, Electronic Media, Print Media
Seven Create online research uptake websites, blogs and social media accounts Uptake site, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc
Eight Create a series of research and science television videos for research uptake Television programme
Nine Create a series of research and science radio audios for research uptake Radio programme
Ten Start a research and science column or page in a named newspaper for uptake Newspapers
Eleven Conduct public lectures, seminars,& conferences on Research & Science uptake Awareness and sensitization campaign
Twelve Identify and use research uptake & communication intermediaries’ mediators or disseminators Specialised research uptake officer, Science Journalists, public relations officer or a Team
Thirteen Use entertainment industry for research uptake Drama, Music, Films & Art
Fourteen Go to gatherings not organised by you or your institution but meant for sharing ideas and share your research results whenever you have a chance Summarised Dissemination Guide distributed to participants.
Fifteen Use posters, banners and street adverts placed at strategic points that can be accessed by the majority Posters, banners, street adverts
Sixteen Use your contacts, friends & social networks to share your research results in a more summarised way Contacts, Friends, Social networks and result summaries.
Seventeen Write summaries of research to public, private and civil society sectors Policy briefs, flyers, newsletters, bulletins
Eighteen Organise informal social intercourse meetings such as cocktail, dinner, come together party and invite key research up-takers and share your results Party, Cocktail, dinner, social gatherings. (If people are drinking beer, make sure you share before they get drunk).
Nineteen Initiate a research and science magazine for uptake Magazine
Twenty Use traditional methods of research and science dissemination Publish a book, journal article or have a documentary.
Assumptions
On Success indicators Have a good financial budget, dedicated team, specialised workforce, create good will and understanding for research up takers, and be self motivated and enjoy what you are doing
Possible challenges Attitude, ego, rudeness, habits, research communication illiteracy, negligence and ignorance
NOTE: Sitwe’s Research up-take, Communication & Utilisation Model is a brand new model that was first presented in july 2013 at an international consortium workshop for Cooperate graduate link programme (CoGL) between University of Zambia and Siegen University of Germany.

Sitwe’s Research Uptake, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model) is a practical tried and acceptable presentation of options, strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation at a research institution or at an individual (researcher or scientist) level. Research institutions or individuals can choose either to follow all the options as presented with minor modifications or select options which they can quickly manage. The model presents three major issues:
(i) Options – that can be conveniently selected by individuals or research institutions to disseminate their research or science outcome for uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. There are twenty options and all these options are the same but some options have quick forces of uptake and utilisation attraction than others. Others can easily manifest quick outputs and outcomes for social impact.
(ii) Strategies – these are deliberate plans or actions that institutions or individuals can take for research uptake, communication and utilisation.
(iii) Tools – these are specific guides, instruments, mediums, modes and activities that research institutions or individuals can use for research uptake, communication and utilisation.
ADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model has provided a practical foundation that would facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation by the public, private and civil society sectors.
(ii) His model has found the inherent logic that underpins and hinders research uptake, communication and utilisation at institutional and individual level.
(iii) The random options provided where institutions and individuals can choose from provides it with a useful base for planning and devising research uptake, communication and utilisation strategies.
(iv) By giving specific tools, strategies and options, this model forces research institution and those involved in research to seriously think about their role in facilitating research uptake, communication and utilisation.

DISADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model does not adequately provide possible risks to encounter with research up-takers in the field
(ii) The model does not adequately provide the exactly stimulus that would entice research up takers and their reactions

Research output is the basis for social change, innovations, and national development worldwide. Yet, research uptake, communication and utilisation are not easily attained. Every research institution and their researchers need to work consistently hard on research dissemination in order to stay afloat and see the show. We have never failed ourselves or our societies, but we have been delayed in some way and this is not failure because we always rise up again and again for the habits we built and the choices we made.

References
Grobbelaar, S. (2013). ‘Building Institutional Capacity for Research Uptake’. Available on http://www.drussa.org/index.php? Accessed on 21st June 2013 at 10 hours.

Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. (1996). National Science and Technology Policy. Lusaka: MSTVT.

Mkandawire, S. B. (2013). ‘Communicating Research Uptake: What to Present and How to Present It’. Available on http://www.drussa.org/index.php? Accessed on 21st June 2013 at 10 hours.

Panisset, U. etal (2012). ‘Implementation Research Evidence Uptake and Use for Policy-making’. open access – Panisset et al. Health Research Policy and Systems 2012, 10:20 http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/10/1/20

Tesch, R. (1990). Qualitative Research Analysis Types & Software Tools. Great Britain: Routledge.

Thulstrup E. W. (1992). Improving the quality of Research in Developing country Universities. New Yolk: World Bank.

Wimmer, R.D. & J. R. Dominic. (1987). Mass Media Research; An Introduction. 2nd Ed. Belmont, Califonia: Wadsworth publishing Company.

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STRATEGIES AND TOOLS THAT FACILITATE RESEARCH UPTAKE

STRATEGIES AND TOOLS THAT FACILITATE RESEARCH UPTAKE
by
Sitwe Benson Mkandawire,
University of Zambia – 2013

Research uptake strategies and tools are like sharp kitchen utensils that can either serve us or leave us bleeding depending on how we handle them. Issues of research uptake and utilisation worldwide are equally like a war between researchers and research institutions versus the public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry. This is not a war of guns, bombs, blood and fire but that of attitude, ego, rudeness, habits, research communication illiteracy, negligence and ignorance.
Strategies in this article refer to deliberate plans or actions to achieve your research uptake and utilisation goals while Tools refer to specific guides, instruments or activities for implementing your general strategy.
The central task of all research institutions is to provide an environment in which one is able to discover, innovate, and initiate new knowledge that the world has never known and not act as mere platforms for research for the sake of research. The community can only know this new knowledge through specific strategies and tools for science dissemination. All research institutions are expected to use such a resource if their institutions are to be recognised by others and the international community. This is what Linda Cilliers in her article ‘Leveraging your institution`s research’ observed when she said “One of the smartest ways for a university to raise its profile is to use what many already have in abundance—research”. The crucial issue this article is trying to address is: how does the world and other institutions know about this already existing abundant research without appropriate strategies and tools for research uptake?
African research institutions’ capacity is a key resource for social change, innovation, policy makers, reformation and national development but it is under-resourced and under-utilised, and consequently not fulfilling its full potential. Currently, there are many research institutions in the world and Africa in particular that carry out different forms of research and science at different levels. Yet, science and research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors such as policy makers, NGOs and the industry is still a challenge. Research uptake challenges are equally at different levels. One of the major challenges is lack of strategies and tools or modalities of enhancing scientific research uptake. Many of these researchers and research institutions want to have their research, science, innovations and technologies up-taken by the end users. They do not have strategies, tools and means to do so.
Some research institutions have the strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake but does not have effective and adequate means to reach to the end users. Many times, such institutions are those without specialised offices for research uptake as noted by Sara Grobbelaar in her DRUSSA blog article tagged ‘Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake’ when she noted “it is important that individual actors be enabled to become proficient in the management of Research Uptake (RU), efforts to get research into use will not come to fruition unless the institutional environment is conducive to such activity”. By extension Grobbelaar suggests that even if an institution has the necessary strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, they may not reach the end users without effective research uptake management. In most cases, such institutions bleed for not handling these strategies and tools well. The tools are not serving them. Institutions that adequately utilise research uptake strategies and tools have little to complain about research uptake in their communities because they make sure that whatever come out of research from their institutions is effectively utilised by those in need.
There are many strategies and tools for researchers and research institutions that can be used to facilitate research uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. These strategies and tools are summarised in ‘Sitwe’s Research Up-take, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model)’.

Sitwe’s Research Uptake, Communication and Utilisation Model (Sitwe’s RUCU Model) is a practical tried and acceptable presentation of options, strategies and tools that can facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation at a research institution or at an individual (researcher or scientist) level. Research institutions or individuals can choose either to follow all the options as presented with minor modifications or select options which they can quickly manage. The model presents three major issues:
(i) Options – that can be conveniently selected by individuals or research institutions to disseminate their research or science outcome for uptake by public, private and civil society sectors. There are twenty options and all these options are the same but some options have quick forces of uptake and utilisation attraction than others. Others can easily manifest quick outputs and outcomes for social impact.
(ii) Strategies – these are deliberate plans or actions that institutions or individuals can take for research uptake, communication and utilisation.
(iii) Tools – these are specific guides, instruments, mediums, modes and activities that research institutions or individuals can use for research uptake, communication and utilisation.

ADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model has provided a practical foundation that would facilitate research uptake, communication and utilisation by the public, private and civil society sectors.
(ii) His model has found the inherent logic that underpins and hinders research uptake, communication and utilisation at institutional and individual level.
(iii) The random options provided where institutions and individuals can choose from provides it with a useful base for planning and devising research uptake, communication and utilisation strategies.
(iv) By giving specific tools, strategies and options, this model forces research institution and those involved in research to seriously think about their role in facilitating research uptake, communication and utilisation.

DISADVANTAGES OF SITWE RUCU MODEL
(i) Sitwe’s Model does not adequately provide possible risks to encounter with research up-takers in the field
(ii) The model does not adequately provide the exactly stimulus that would entice research up takers and their reactions

Research output is the basis for social change, innovations, and national development worldwide. Yet, research uptake, communication and utilisation are not easily attained. Every research institution and their researchers need to work consistently hard on research dissemination in order to stay afloat and see the show. We have never failed ourselves or our societies, but we have been delayed in some way and this is not failure because we always rise up again and again for the habits we built and the choices we made.

Sitwe Benson Mkandawire is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Team Leader for the Research, Science, Media and Dissemination Committee of UNZA DRUSSA Implementation Team and Manager for the University of Zambia Platform for Research, Science, Technology, Innovation and Development at http://www.unzaresearch.org

References
Grobbelaar, S. (2013). ‘Building Institutional Capacity for Research Uptake’. Available on http://www.drussa.org/index.php? Accessed on 21st June 2013 at 10 hours.

Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. (1996). National Science and Technology Policy. Lusaka: MSTVT.

Mkandawire, S. B. (2013). ‘Communicating Research Uptake: What to Present and How to Present It’. Available on http://www.drussa.org/index.php? Accessed on 21st June 2013 at 10 hours.

Panisset, U. etal (2012). ‘Implementation Research Evidence Uptake and Use for Policy-making’. open access – Panisset et al. Health Research Policy and Systems 2012, 10:20 http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/10/1/20

Tesch, R. (1990). Qualitative Research Analysis Types & Software Tools. Great Britain: Routledge.

Thulstrup E. W. (1992). Improving the quality of Research in Developing country Universities. New Yolk: World Bank.

Wimmer, R.D. & J. R. Dominic. (1987). Mass Media Research; An Introduction. 2nd Ed. Belmont, Califonia: Wadsworth publishing Company.

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Lessons learnt from the Neganega Literacy Programme by both local and international Literacy providers.

Lessons learnt from the Neganega Literacy Programme by both local and international Literacy providers.

Extract from Mkandawire Sitwe Benson (2012) An evaluation of the neganega literacy programme in Mazabuka district of the southern province of Zambia. Lusaka:unpublished Masters dissertation but available in UNZA library.

 

ü  The programme is performing well due to a number of factors: firstly, the aims, goals and objectives of the programme are valid and relevant to peoples’ lives. Secondly, the benefits of the programme are immediate and visible within the community and lastly, the inception, development and implementation of the programme involved all the stakeholders in the community.

ü  Due to the practical skills participants learned, the programme is able to reach a wide audience with a variety of target groups, thereby, commanding a great deal of acceptance from people both within and outside the community.

ü  Voluntary facilitators were very committed to community work even if they were not paid and because they were well-trained for the task at hand, they were perceived as credible sources of information about literacy, HIV/AIDS, sexuality and income generation.

ü  While lessons imparted important factual and practical information, the variety of applied programme components in business, reflect circle discussions, sensitization campaigns and community tours encouraged reinforcement of what students learned from the lessons.

ü  The use of local languages Tonga and Nyanja and the Informal interaction between programme participants and facilitators inside and outside the classroom through field trips developed trust, which made them more influential in the classroom and in the community.

ü  Monthly and annual meetings by programme facilitators to refresh their minds, share strengths and weaknesses provided an opportunity for the staff to learn new things and develop trust in each other.  

ü  If programme administrators do not create conducive learning environment, provide appropriate teaching and learning materials, a proper syllabus and put up a mechanism for guiding facilitators with lesson plans and other necessities, the programme might lose a lot of clients, popularity and later become moribund.

ü  The inadequacy of frequent monitoring of facilitators, follow up on graduates’ application of skills in the society might make the programme loose value in the near future.   

ü  The inadequacy of external motivation in the form of remuneration of facilitators, might create a sense of programme discontinuity in the near future even if administrators were to change facilitators.

 

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